Paid Sick Days is a right for all workers. Paid sick days ensure the health and financial security of workers and their families, and must be a right for all waged workers. Laws and ordinances which formalize this right are valuable, but the ability to access this right, and the security to do so free of retaliation, can only be fully guaranteed through direct enforcement of this standard by the workers themselves.
Additionally, in recent years business interests have invigorated their efforts to scale back workers’ rights and our ability to organize to defend and advance our collective interests. Simply because mandatory paid sick days is law does not make it a guarantee. The startling frequency of workers experiencing wage theft demonstrates that even the most basic rights and laws are violated routinely.
“Simply because mandatory paid sick days is law does not make it a guarantee.”
Regulatory agencies consistently prove their ineffectiveness in addressing these behaviors. The Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI), for instance, is too understaffed and underfunded to effectively deter violations and uphold the law. Often an employer’s punishment is so small that the benefits of retaliation still outweigh the costs. This is why the responsibility of holding management accountable will always fall on the collective action of the workers to directly.
Should we expect paid sick days to be any different from wage theft or retaliation for concerted activity? The Portland Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Food & Retail Workers United (FRWU) believe not. We continue to organize for democratic workplaces in which workers have the freedom to assert their rights, free from retaliation, and make improvements to their day-to-day work lives. Only through direct enforcement by workers, in the interests of workers, will we secure our rights.
“Only through direct enforcement by workers, in the interests of workers, will we secure our rights.”
Regardless of the deals made by employers and politicians, the Portland IWW and the Paid Sick Days Now! campaign continue to build workers’ power on the job as the means to further improve working conditions and hold employers accountable to the laws protecting workers’ rights. Only through collective struggle of workers, both on the job and in our communities, will these “benefits” and “entitlements” become basic rights!